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A construction in which a noun or a pronoun in the objective case is paired with a present participle, as in I planned on them staying overnight.
Usage Note: Does the subject of a gerund have to be a possessive, as in She approved of Maria's taking the job? Or can it be unmarked, as in She approved of Maria taking the job? Many sticklers insist that the unmarked version—the so-called fused participle—is an error. But like many usage myths, this one originated in a botched analysis of English grammar and obscures the complexities of actual usage. In fact, gerunds with unmarked subjects were the earlier form in the language, have long been used by its best writers, and are perfectly idiomatic and frequently indispensable: consider the sentence I was annoyed by the people behind me in line being served first, which sounds far more natural and less awkward than either I was annoyed by the people's behind me in line being served first or I was annoyed by the people behind me in line's being served first. The Usage Panel has never flat-out rejected gerunds with unmarked subjects: in 1995, 56 percent accepted I can understand him not wanting to go; by 2011, the approval rate had risen to 67 percent. How should a writer choose between possessive and unmarked forms? The possessive form (Maria's taking the job) is generally appropriate in more formal writing and when the entire fact or event is being considered as a whole; the unmarked form (Maria taking the job) is appropriate in less formal writing and when the emphasis is on the subject of the gerund, not just on the action or state described by the gerund.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.